Veggie Jesuits and Competitive Purism

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

It does seem sometimes, like our own worst enemy, is ourselves.

It is to be expected that defensive meat eaters will attack vegetarians and vegans. We’re all used to the vitriol and the ridicule. It is quite another thing to see vegans attacking vegetarians or even worst, vegans attacking vegans.

I get hate mail all the time accusing me of everything from eating tuna fish sandwiches to having a secret meat freezer on our ships. It appears anyone can fabricate anything about anyone. The story than gets tossed into the internet rumor mill sometimes going viral and certainly international. This usually results in a flurry of unsubstantiated hysterical accusations, denunciations and incriminations.

I have been accused of so many things that it no longer irritates me. It is simply amusing. In today’s age we no longer have the benefit of editors, fact checkers or any respect for the truth. Opinions become facts and opposition to opinions become lies.

Over the years some of the more amusing accusations I have received are that I made a fortune smuggling endangered black coral, I’m an international gun runne, a trained KGB assassin, a sports fisherman and this person or that person told another person that they saw me eating a tuna fish sandwich, a cheeseburger or foie gras and caviar.

And many of these ridiculous accusations come from some people who consider themselves to be vegan and thus much holier than anyone else.

It is so absurd that when someone like Ellen Degeneres who has done so much to advance the vegan cause is denounced as a hypocrite because she did a pizza skit during the Academy Awards.

In fact the “You’re not a real vegan” has become a major weapon between people over personality and relationship issues.

I made my ships exclusively vegan some fifteen years ago. They were vegetarian ships before that.

Despite this Sea Shepherd is constantly being criticized because someone saw someone, somewhere, wearing a Sea Shepherd shirt or hoodie eating a hot dog. We have even been criticized for even allowing non-vegans to be crewmembers.

One of the more ridiculous accusations is that Sea Shepherd ships are not vegan for the “right” reasons. There are apparently different types of vegans motivated by different agendas like health concerns, ethical concerns, or environmental and conservation concerns.

My purity is suspect because I have advocated veganism as an alternative to destroying life in our Ocean. And not just from fishing for food for people. Over 40% of the fish taken from the sea is converted into fish-meal to feed domestic salmon, factory farmed chickens and pigs, fur-bearing animals and domestic housecat.

The domestic meat industry is the single greatest contributor to climate change, ground water depletion, pollution and to the wastage of land through deforestation.

It is my position that it essential that environmentalist be vegan and it is because of this position that I have suffered the abuse of mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. I was a national director of the former and co-founder and director of the latter.

Such abuse is to be expected. No one is more defensive of what they eat than a meat eater. Abuse from vegans however is another thing altogether.

My position it that it really does not matter what motivates someone to be vegan. Ethics, environment, health, fashion or religion. It simply does not matter. There is only one thing that matters, and that is that an animal does not suffer and die to feed any of us. The added bonus is that it is healthier and it is a great benefit to our global eco-systems.

What the environmental and animal rights movements do not need is silly non-productive bickering over who is more ethically pure than anyone else.

We also need to be tolerant. Most vegans were not always vegan and people are swayed more by example and understanding than by rude and angry proselytizing. We need conversion in the spirit of St. Francis and not by St. Ignatius Loyola.

When I hear, “well, I saw her eating a hamburger five years ago.” So what? That has nothing to do with what she is doing now.

I was once confronted in a restaurant by what I call a “veggie Jesuit” for eating a hamburger. The person was irate, calling me a hypocrite until I pointed out that the “hamburger” was in fact a vegiburger. That shut the person up, but not for long. Months later I saw a posting by the same person saying that they saw me eating a “hamburger” and thus I was a hypocrite. This was followed with comments saying, “yes everyone knows he’s a meat eater, blah, blah, blah.”

And of course it must be true because it was on facebook and people believe what they want to believe.

Back in 1980, few people had even heard of veganism. Today it is a fast growing movement and getting stronger every day. Veganism is the future of humanity if we have any future at all.

One other thing that is really annoying about some vegans is attacking causes that they should be supporting. For example when people oppose the selling of rabbits by Whole Foods, the predictable comments roll in like, “so what about the cows, the pigs and the chickens they sell, what about them?”

This assumes that the person defending rabbits hates cows when in fact it is a person working to fight a winnable battle and trying to prevent the escalation of slaughter by Whole Foods. I get the same thing with people saying in response to our campaigns to protect dolphins, “well what about cows.”

They can’t seem to grasp the definition of “Sea Shepherd.” We are not the pasture shepherds or the barn shepherds. Yes the plight of cows and pigs is important and we do not eat them, but to undermine a campaign for one species by demanding that the campaign be abandoned in exchange for another is just ridiculous. It would be like me going up to a crowd of activists trying to stop bull fighting and saying, “hey what about the dolphins?”

We do have common goals and we should be complimenting each other within a movement of diversity instead of fighting to focus the attention of others to our particular objectives. And towards that goal we need to be understanding, encouraging, and we need to lead by example. We also need to stop spreading vicious rumors and using veganism to promote our own agendas with regard to personality conflicts and competitions.

Veganism is on the threshold of being a truly global movement and global movements require diversity and diversity means strength. To grow stronger we need to understand the military concept of enemy identification and all vegans regardless of motivation, regardless of activities, regardless of focus are links in a chain growing continuously stronger.

Veganism is compassion. Compassion for animals, for the planet and for the future of all living things.

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